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Slightly off topic but important to our hobby
- To: KillieTalk at aka_org
- Subject: Slightly off topic but important to our hobby
- From: Scott <zerelli at yahoo_com>
- Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2001 06:24:22 -0700 (PDT)
- In-Reply-To: <200106140928.FAA17606 at actwin_com>
Well folks brace yourselves, it looks like the fish
hobby is going to start getting lots of attention.
Hopefully it won't turn out to be bad attention.
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The ornamental fish industry,
which supplies a rainbow of exotic species to aquarium
owners across the world, is grappling with the
perception that it harms the environment and the
slippery issue of genetic modification.
Despite the common notion that the aquarium industry
depletes and destroys marine life, it has far less
impact than commercial fishing, John Dawes, secretary
general of the non-profit Ornamental Fish
International, told Reuters.
The trade is big business. World exports of ornamental
fish were valued at $178 million in 1998, according to
the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
Freshwater fish accounted for around 90 percent of all
exports, with almost 90 percent of them bred in
captivity, said Dawes, who spoke at a global
ornamental fish conference in Singapore.
While 100 million tons of sea fish are harvested for
food each year, some 70 to 100 tons are caught for
"It's what we call a low-impact, high-value industry,"
said Dawes, whose organization represents 200 members
in 40 countries and includes most of the world's major
aquarium industry players.
The average retail price for food fish was between
$14,500 and $16,500 per ton, but ornamental fish
typically trade at a hefty $1.8 million per ton.
Lack of information had played a major part in
misconceptions about the trade, spurring global
efforts for more accurate data, Dawes said.
REDUCING CYANIDE FISHING
But conservationists are waging an ongoing battle to
get fishermen to stop using cyanide to stun and
collect fish, Vaughan Pratt, president of the
International Marinelife Alliance (IMA), told Reuters.
"More countries in the world use nets than cyanide,"
Pratt said. "But the two biggest places, Indonesia and
the Philippines, export the most fish and end up using
the most cyanide."
Fishermen squirt a weak cyanide solution over reefs
which temporarily stuns fish and forces them from
their hiding places making them easy to collect. The
toxic solution harms other tiny sea creatures and the
The IMA pioneered education projects in the
Philippines 15 years ago to inform the local fishing
community about the benefits of net fishing and the
ecological damage caused by cyanide.
Cyanide fishing in the Philippines has since been
reduced by almost 70 percent.
"By giving responsibility for the protection of the
river or reef to the communities who live by (them),
they are not going to kill that resource," Dawes said.
"It's their livelihood."
But Pratt said Indonesia had overtaken the Philippines
in recent years as the major source of aquarium fish.
"It's a total environmental catastrophe what they've
done to the reefs using cyanide in the last five
years," he said.
IMA's eight Indonesian education sites are struggling
for government support amid the country's political
Another non-profit aquarium industry association, the
Marine Aquarium Council, is working on certification
standards to ensure fish are not collected with
cyanide and hopes to eventually reward the fishing
community with more cash for net-caught fish.
The issue of bio-piracy -- when resources are
exploited by outside parties without any returns
flowing back to the country of origin -- is also
moving to the fore with the high commercial value of
Profits from the genetic manipulation of fish bred in
captivity have landed only in the hands of ornamental
breeders, Dr. Paulo Petry, a project investigator with
Bio-Amazonia Conservation International, told Reuters.
For instance, the popular Discus fish, originally from
Brazil, has been bred into many sought-after colored
varieties around the world.
Public and private factions continue to tussle over
whether genetic resources should be governed by
Singapore, the world's largest exporter of ornamental
fish with 30 percent of the global supply, has already
produced numerous lucrative new varieties through
The tiny city state pushed new boundaries when the
National University of Singapore created green and red
fluorescent versions of the black and white zebra fish
earlier this year.
The technology, which permanently embeds a green
fluorescent gene from a jellyfish and the red color
from a sea anemone into the zebra fish, can be used on
other species, researchers say.
"Ornamental fish is something like fashion. You need
to come up with new fish varieties from time to time,"
said Lim Lian Chuan, head of the Agrifood and
Veterinary Authority of Singapore's (AVA) freshwater
The AVA has been actively pushing local ornamental
fish breeders to dabble with cutting edge breeding
techniques even as industry players ponder whether or
not to encourage and trade the modified fish.
Petry of Bio-Amazonia Conservation International said
steps must be taken to share the benefits which the
industry enjoys with the countries and people
supplying the bulk of the world's ornamental fish.
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